US playing catch-up in race to detect mutant variants

Despite its world-class medical system and its vaunted Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. fell behind in the race to detect dangerous coronavirus mutations. And it’s only now beginning to cUS rushes to catch up in the race to detect mutant virusesatch up.

The problem has not been a shortage of technology or expertise. Rather, scientists say, it’s an absence of national leadership and coordination, plus a lack of funding and supplies for overburdened laboratories trying to juggle diagnostic testing with the hunt for genetic changes.

“We have the brains. We have the tools. We have the instruments,” said Ilhem Messaoudi, director of a virus research center at University of California, Irvine. “It’s just a matter of supporting that effort.”

Viruses mutate constantly. To stay ahead of the threat, scientists analyze samples, watching closely for mutations that might make the coronavirus more infectious or more deadly.

But such testing has been scattershot.

Here’s an update on all developments. Scroll or swipe further for in-depth coverage.

  • The Senate early Friday approved a measure that would let Democrats muscle President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan through the chamber without Republican support. Vice President Kamala Harris was in the chair to cast the tie-breaking vote, her first.
  • U.S employers added just 49,000 jobs in January, a tepid gain that shows that the viral pandemic retains a tight grip on the economy nearly a year after it triggered a painful recession.
  • Johnson & Johnson asked U.S. regulators Thursday to clear the world’s first single-dose COVID-19 vaccine, an easier-to-use option that could boost scarce supplies.
  • Desperation mounted in Mexico Thursday as the country runs out of coronavirus vaccines, a government registration website crashed for a third straight day and restaurant workers protested virus restrictions they say are driving them into poverty.
  • The President and first lady Jill Biden have taped a video message thanking healthcare workers that will be shown before the Super Bowl, according to a source familiar with the plans.
  • With more than half of America reluctant or flatly opposed to getting a COVID-19 vaccine, a VIP-filled video call on Thursday targeted the nation’s military families with an urgent plea: Get the shot.
  • The NHL revised its virus protocols in a bid to keep the shortened season on track, but not before a fifth team was idled by COVID-19 problems.



Joe Batiste

Joe hails from central Ohio, where he covered Education and Neighborhood news for the Columbus Dispatch. Joe has two teen daughters and enjoys the independent music scene in Greensboro.